16 Helpful Insights from Seasoned Homeschoolers
Beginning to homeschool can feel overwhelming. How do you choose the curriculum? How do you fit everything in? Can you really educate your kids well?! You are not alone with these questions, and you can glean the wisdom from those who have come before you and have their experience to share. Here are 16 ideas from seasoned homeschoolers that can help your homeschool thrive.
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1. Familiarize yourself with your local homeschooling laws.
In the United States, different states have different types of homeschooling regulations. Before you go full into choosing curriculum and attempting to plan a schedule, you need to make sure that you are following your state’s or municipality’s regulations.
Some states have certain requirements for subjects required, time spent homeschooling, attendance, documentation and reporting, and testing. In other states, you will find a significant amount of freedom in how you choose to homeschool, with little reporting, no testing, and a more hands-off approach from the local school systems and government.
Whatever type of state you live in, it’s important to know the rules ahead of time so you can plan accordingly.
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2. Join homeschool support groups.
Facebook groups are a great place to glean from other homeschooling parents, find support and encouragement, and ask questions. For example, if your local homeschool laws have you confused, there is likely a Facebook group for people in your state or area to come together to ask questions and find answers and support.
The homeschool community is a very supportive one, and homeschooling parents in these groups are eager to share their knowledge to help make homeschooling a reality for families that want to make the switch to home education, as well as provide support and community for those who are already actively homeschooling. Groups local to your area can also share specific insight into homeschooling resources in your area.
It is also worth considering joining a local group that meets in person. That could be anything from a group of homeschoolers that get together for play dates at the park, a nature group that meets up for weekly nature walks, a book club for homeschooling parents or students, or anything in between.
Whether online, in person, or both, finding community can help make homeschooling feel less like an isolated experience and more like a communal one.
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3. Familiarize yourself with homeschooling styles.
Before shopping for curriculum, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the different homeschooling styles. Different curricula have a different approach to their teaching methods, and understanding the motives and practices of each homeschooling style will help you better navigate and understand the innumerable curriculum options available.
HSLDA has a brief overview of each homeschool style, and it also links to a homeschool style quiz you can take to see which homeschool styles may resonate most with you. Knowing the homeschooling styles out there will be helpful in your curriculum research, but let’s talk about point 4 before we dive in too much to any one style.
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4. Don’t be afraid to experiment with homeschooling styles to see what works best for your family.
Theoretically, one type of homeschooling style may really resonate with you, and you may be tempted to go full in your first year with that one specific style. While that does work for some people, do not feel like you have to commit right away. It is perfectly okay to experiment with homeschool styles to see what truly does work best for your family.
Perhaps you choose a more Charlotte Mason inspired route for reading and language arts but try something more traditional for math. Seasoned homeschoolers will tell you that you do not want to invest in a ton of curriculum only to find out four weeks into your school year that what you thought would work beautifully for your family is actually not the best fit.
Point 5 will help you avoid this potential problem…
5. Look at samples of curriculum before purchasing.
Many curriculum producers provide sample lessons for download on websites where the curriculum can be purchased.
Take advantage of these free sample lessons! They will give you insight into how lessons are laid out and executed, how much time each lesson will take, and what materials are needed. You can also visit stores that sell curriculum you are interested in and look through curriculum books in their entirety.
Alternatively, you could ask a seasoned homeschooler near you that owns the curriculum you are interested in if you could take a peek at it. Still need more help learning about curriculum?
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Let’s move to point 6…
6. Watch YouTube videos to learn more about the curriculum.
There are countless YouTube videos out there that share peeks inside the curriculum in the form of flip-throughs or reviews. If you can not physically get your hands on an item to look at, these videos can be invaluable. Many homeschooling mamas are also passionate about sharing what curriculum their family is using and how they feel about it.
Hearing insight from someone with firsthand experience can be super helpful. However, let’s consider point 7 for some precautions you should take with that.
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7. Do not think that what works well for another family will 100% work well for your family.
Curriculum reviews are so incredibly helpful, but always remember that your family is unique. If you buy something solely because someone else raved about how much they love it, you may end up feeling disappointed and let down.
Take what you need from curriculum reviews, and also run everything through the lens of how you feel about home learning and how your family operates. The beauty of homeschooling is the freedom each of our families can find in it to tailor our children’s education.
Copying and pasting what worked for someone else without really considering if the things they loved about it will truly work for your family can end up in frustration and wasted money.
8. Keep it simple.
As you are exploring the curriculum and learning about the multitude of options available, you will discover that there are a great number of excellent options out there.
This is a good problem to have!
However, avoid the temptation to over-purchase. Choose what you think will work best and implement it. As you become more comfortable with homeschooling, you may want to integrate additional components into your learning, but, especially when you are first starting, seasoned homeschoolers would warn you of point 9…
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9. Do not overschedule.
When you try to cram too much into your day, school can begin to feel like a never-ending checklist. Be reasonable about what can fit into each day. Allow room for margin and enjoyment of the subjects you are learning together.
Overscheduling can lead to burn out, which is not something you want for your homeschool. When you are new to homeschooling, consider slowly adding in subjects as you familiarize yourself with how much time each subject requires and where subjects best fit into your routine.
One way to prevent overscheduling your days is tip number 10….
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10. You do not have to do every subject every single day.
You read that right! You may feel like you need to fit each and every subject into your daily school schedule, but you don’t! Split up the course load. Maybe choose just a couple of days a week to do science and history. Even a subject like math can be done just a few days a week.
If you are accustomed to more traditional schooling that does each subject each day, consider tip number 11…
11. Your homeschool does not need to replicate a public or traditional school.
You have the freedom to schedule and organize your homeschool in the way that best serves your family. You do not need to fit every subject into every day, and you do not have to follow the model of a public school schedule.
As long as you are meeting the legal requirements of your area, you can shape your homeschool in a way that best reflects your values and priorities as a family.
If you find that your homeschool day is still feeling overwhelming or that you have tried to fit in too much, consider tip number 12…
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12. Let go of anything that isn’t serving your family.
Just because you start a curriculum does not mean you have to continue using it if it isn’t serving your homeschool well.
Naturally, there will be some subjects your children enjoy more than others, but if you’re finding that a curriculum is not quite jiving with your family or is teaching in a style that your children are not responding to, do not feel obligated to “power through” for the curriculum’s sake.
Your children are precious, and your homeschool time is valuable – more valuable than any curriculum out there. Switch gears if you need to. Sometimes that means setting something aside permanently because it is not working well for your family, and sometimes that means setting something aside for a season. If your days are feeling stressful, maybe you really enjoy all of the curriculum you are using but you need to let go of something in order to create margin.
So much of learning what works for your family is learned in the doing, not in the conceptual thinking about it and scheduling, so be sensitive to when you need to scale back, move through something more slowly than the curriculum schedules it, or make a shift to something new.
13. Outsource when necessary or helpful.
Just because we choose to homeschool does not mean that we can not take advantage of outside resources that can aid in our children’s education. Maybe that means using an online math program for math instruction, or perhaps you utilize classes at a co-op or home education center for certain subjects.
Choosing to homeschool does not mean that we can not or should not utilize outside resources to aid us on our home education journeys. Outsourcing can create unique opportunities for our children that we may not be able to replicate at home, such as signing your child up for a choir or band class.
It can also help our students learn subjects that we may not feel confident in teaching, as well as relieve stress as we reduce our own work loads as our children’s primary educators. Choosing to homeschool does not mean we have to choose to do so alone.
14. Realize that you do not need to follow the traditional schooling schedule.
We already learned in point 11 that, as homeschoolers, we do not need to follow the public schooling model for how we lay out our subjects, but our calendar year and daily and weekly schedules also do not need to mimic the traditional schooling model.
You do not necessarily have to school Monday through Friday, nor do you need to start school at the time traditional schools typically start. Maybe a Monday through Thursday schedule for your seated subjects with Friday open for “field trips,” library time, or time for hands-on learning projects like science experiments, art, and baking works well for your family.
Perhaps you work from home in the mornings and use the afternoon time to school your kids. Maybe your spouse works Saturdays and Sundays, so you school those days and take other days off for your “weekend” so that your kids can enjoy family time with your spouse on days that they are free from work. You can create a model that best serves your individual family’s needs.
You also do not need to follow the traditional school calendar year. Maybe you choose to school year round with more frequent breaks, maybe you take a longer break during the holidays, or maybe your start and finish dates are different than the typical school calendar year. You get to choose!
15. Living life together provides extraordinary learning opportunities.
While it’s easy to hyper-focus on curriculum and scheduling and how to get all the learning necessary into a day, life is filled with so many learning opportunities. These opportunities and moments count! Baking together, grocery shopping with your children, taking care of your home together, doing yard work – all of these things teach necessary life skills that are best learned in the doing of each task.
When you see homeschooling not just as what happens while seated at a table for a few hours each day but see it as a way of life, it can totally change your perspective. Learning is happening all the time, merely in living each day with our children. Do not discount these ways of learning. They are meaningful and valuable. Does your teen help with housekeeping and cooking?
Count it as a home economics credit!
Do your kids love to bake with you? Bake once a week and count it as your math and science for the day, explaining things like measurements and how ingredients work together to change form from batter to cake.
Plant and care for a garden together. Let your kids play.
Fred Rogers is quoted as saying, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning.”
When you feel like you are not doing enough, remember all the experiences your children are gaining that they would not otherwise have if they spent hours a day seated at a desk doing bookwork.
16. When all else fails, read together.
Reading with your children is so incredibly valuable.
So much can be learned simply by curling up together and reading picture books, and it forms deep relational bonds and core memories. Make reading part of your family’s culture. When a child is sick, they may not be able to sit and learn a new math concept, but they will love being held in their parents’ arms while a beautiful picture book is read.
When you have a busy day filled with appointments and have not sat together for formal lessons, end your day with reading rich books together.
When your day is not going quite as planned and there are meltdowns or stress is rising, set the bookwork aside, pause, and read together. Read chapter books, picture books, old classics, newer stories, non-fiction, fiction, poetry, fairy tales – but, whatever you do, make time to read together. It is never time wasted.
I hope these insights are an encouragement to you! If you are a seasoned homeschooler, what other insights would you add? If you are new to homeschooling, which of these tips is most helpful to you? Let’s chat about it in the comments!
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